In the early 90’s (i.e. a formative time for now 32-year-old me) beautifully-shaped, blonde-haired, blue-eyed women were considered the epitome of beauty. In fact, upon its inception in 1991, Allure magazine conducted a survey to determine who and what Americans considered beautiful. Most people named Christie Brinkley as their beauty ideal. At eight years old I agreed. Picture her long golden locks, even longer legs, and beautiful boobs in suburbia with 2.5 kids, a handsome husband, and a dog. You now have a clear picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had the pretty blonde hair to get me started and the “Must Be A Gorgeous, Sexy, Successful Mother And Wife” mantra had begun running through my head. There the mantra stayed, building momentum, for years to come.
As I grew into adulthood I truly believed that if I just had the perfect look and amazing man and gorgeous wedding photos all would be right in the world.
I was blonde. With hidden tattoos (because visible tattoos would look tacky in a wedding gown and ruin those photos I needed). I got married. To my high school sweetheart. In my parents backyard. I didn’t wear a wedding gown. And four months later I had an affair. Then I got divorced.
My blonde hair and lack of visible ink didn’t do a damn thing to keep this from happening. In fact they probably contributed to the issues that led to said infidelity and divorce. This totally pissed me off. So I totally (and finally!) began to challenge the Beautiful Blonde Cover Girl Ideal I had set for myself.
Along with the internal changes I obviously had to make, I made some physical changes, too. A few more piercings. A few more tattoos. All visible. All because I liked them and they made me smile. And also all because I no longer had to worry about “Oh gracious, how will that look in my hypothetical wedding dress (that it turns out I NEVER EVEN CONSIDERED PURCHASING!)?”
Children of divorce often identify with one parent and reject the other. (Or at least that’s what my therapist tells me.) When they do this they also tend to label attributes of the rejected parent as “bad” and do their best to keep from exhibiting those particular attributes themselves. For example: Dad is bad. Dad likes to drink beer. Therefore drinking is bad. I must never drink. Or: Mom is bad. Mom is a painter. Therefore being an artist is bad. I can never be an artist.
I did the same thing with Christie Brinkley. I couldn’t reject just a few bits of the paradigm I had established with her at it’s center. I had to reject the entire thing. As such, I made it my mission to live outside those arbitrary constructs I had created for myself as an eight-year-old. In essence, my picturesque ideals were the “bad parent” and everything included in them, right down to the long, flowing blonde hair, was to be rejected.
Oh, my poor hair. It became my nemesis. BLONDE IS BEAUTIFUL. EVERYONE LOVES A PRETTY BLONDE. I MUST NOT CONFORM TO THAT STANDARD OF BEAUTY. I MUST NOT BE BLONDE. BLONDE IS ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD! BLONDE. IS. BULLSHIT.
Since then I’ve done about a million different things with my hair, changing my look up every few months. The only thing I wouldn’t do under any circumstances, as you may have already guessed, was entertain the idea of going back to blonde. No way would I give in to that 1991 picture of Christie Brinkley Beauty. For the record the pendulum had swung significantly towards an Angelina Joelie picture of beauty by this point, but I’d drawn my (arbitrary – and yes I see the irony here) line, and I was sticking to it.
Fast forward to six months ago, five dark-haired years later. I let my hairdresser bring me back to blonde for quite a few reasons. These reasons include boredom, the fact that I may have come to the conclusion that I was being some weird hair-color Nazi, that my salon serves you wine when you walk in the door, and everything sounds great after a couple glasses of chardonnay.
Fast forward another two hours. You know what? I look great as a blonde. (Also, I’m quite humble.)
Fast forward six more months. I feel more beautiful when I look in the mirror today than I have in a long time. It’s not because I see the vision my eight-year-old self created of my early-thirties-self, nor is it because I get compliments on my hair color these days. Just like the tattoo on my arm and the piercing in my nose (I know, I know…I’m a rebel!), my blonde hair does not define me. It is merely an expression of who I am. All of these expressions help me look on the outside the way I feel on the inside. And that makes me feel beautiful. And that makes it beautiful.
Going against the grain is only satisfying if it’s done for the right reasons. The wrong reasons include anything that has to do with the perceived or actual expectations of another…or the 1991 Beauty Survey conducted by Allure Magazine. As someone who considers herself to be Not An Idiot, I can’t believe I actually had to change my hair color to learn this incredibly valuable lesson.
Being different simply for the sake of it traps you just as much as forcing yourself to be “Normal” for the sake of being “Normal.” In either scenario it is the opinion of others controlling your choices. And that – not the color of your hair – is most definitely Bullshit.